Cloud Services, Networking to Play Major Role in Small-Business IT in 2013

When it comes to overall IT spending, 64 percent of SMBs surveyed said they plan to increase their technology budgets in 2013.

As 2013 approaches, small and midsize businesses are looking toward a variety of cloud-based solutions for a variety of business functions, including banking, company email, file sharing, data archiving and accounting, according to a survey of 435 SMBs by cloud and communications services provider Cbeyond.

More than one in five (21 percent) of the respondents said operating their business without cloud services—use of hardware and software delivered as a service over the Internet—would be a major challenge. The majority of cloud users also find significant benefits from the technology, with 83 percent stating the cloud made them more flexible, 78 percent crediting the cloud for making them more productive and 71 percent stating that the cloud is saving them money.

When it comes to overall IT spending, 64 percent of SMBs surveyed said they plan to increase their technology budget in 2013, while 31 percent expect their technology budgets to remain flat and just 5 percent anticipate a decrease in their technology budget. The most important IT investments cited in the survey include high-speed, always-on Internet access, desktop and notebook support and management, security, productivity and collaboration applications, mobile services and enterprise-grade voice and broadband services.

Nearly half (49 percent) of the businesses surveyed said they expect general business conditions to be slightly or much better six months from now, compared with the 27 percent who say it will be slightly or much worse. Despite this optimism, 45 percent of SMB owners expect 2013 hiring levels to fall short of 2012. When asked to rate their stress levels today versus before the November election, the majority (58 percent) of small-business owners said their stress level is on the rise, with 30 percent stating their stress level is much greater and 28 percent stating it is somewhat greater.

“This study showed there are still concerns about market conditions and the impact of health care costs. As small and medium-sized businesses seek to cope with macro factors affecting their companies, leaders increasingly view technology as a way to help them drive productivity,” Cbeyond senior vice president and chief marketing officer Paul Carmody said in a statement. “They also are starting to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel—a collective sentiment which we hope is indicative of the overall U.S. economy moving forward in the coming months.”

Companies included in the survey ranged in size from less than $250,000 in revenue to more than $5 million, with 21 percent having more than $5 million in annual sales, 32 percent having more than 100 employees, and 70 percent having been in business for five years or more. Of the industries represented, 38 percent provided business services, 36 percent were retail and manufacturing specialists, 19 percent focused on personal services and 7 percent were nonprofit organizations.